Gordon Shedden, Jason Plato and Mat Jackson shared the wins in today’s three action-packed Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at a damp Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire. But it is Matt Neal who continues to lead the title race which now heads to the daunting Croft circuit in North Yorkshire on Sunday 19 – that’s despite a highly controversial last corner, last lap clash with team-mate Shedden in today’s second race that put them both off the track as they fought for the victory…
Scottish ace Shedden had achieved his second straight pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session and, on a damp track, duly took victory in the first of today’s races ahead of the Silverline Chevrolet Cruzes of Jason Plato and his young Cumbrian team-mate Alex MacDowall.
In race two Shedden was on course for another win but at the final bend the chasing Neal attempted to pass him. To the disbelief of the huge trackside crowd and live ITV4 audience their Honda Racing Team Civics dramatically made contact and together slithered off into the gravel trap. This gifted Oxford’s Plato victory ahead of Robert Collard’s WSR BMW and Newport Pagnell driver James Nash’s 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra – although their positions were later reversed by officials who decided Hampshireman Collard had been overly robust in overtaking Nash.
In race three, Jackson led every lap from the reversed grid pole to win in his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus. Shedden followed in second ahead of Staffordshire youngster Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Vauxhall Vectra.
Neal leaves Oulton still leading the standings but by the much reduced margin of two points from Shedden with Jackson just another five adrift. Indeed, a mere 15 points – equivalent to a race win – cover the first six in the championship.
Worcestershire’s Neal said: “I’ve no idea how I’m still in front. Today has been a bit of a shocker and Gordon would have been quite justified in taking a swipe at me after race two – it was a dumb move on my part. But everyone else has tripped up somewhere along the line today so I’m a bit lucky.”
Fife racer Shedden added: “The incident with Matt was just one of those things – there’s no way he intended for that outcome so there’s no point jumping up and down about it. I still managed to keep going and get across the line in sixth and took another good points haul in race three. I’m right back in the title hunt which is the most important thing.”
Henley-in-Arden’s Jackson commented: “Things didn’t go our way at all in races one and two but we’re a tough little team and when I was drawn on pole for race three we knew we had a chance. It’s testament to the team and the Focus that we were able to keep Gordon at bay as the Honda seems to be the car to beat at the moment.”
Oulton also saw some fine performances from several other drivers, notably Collard’s team-mate and fellow Hampshireman Nick Foster, Aylesbury’s Andy Neate in his Team Aon Ford Focus and Hereford’s Wood in his tiny Central Group Racing outfit’s older BTC-spec Honda Integra.
Meanwhile, Honda/Dynamics continues to lead Chevrolet/RML in the coveted Manufacturers/Constructors Championship and similarly the Honda Racing Team is still ahead of Silverline Chevrolet in the HiQ Teams table. Jackson, though, has lost his lead in the Independent Drivers order to Nash while the fight for Independent teams’ honours is intensifying – 888 Racing/Collins holds the initiative but is just five points ahead of the tying Pirtek and Airwaves.
Elsewhere, a number of drivers were punished at Oulton for on-track indiscretions: Race 1, Jeff Smith, fined £500, officially reprimanded & 3 penalty points on his competition licence; Race 2, Robert Collard, 1 second time penalty for gaining an unfair advantage (over James Nash).
2011 Dunlop BTCC Drivers’ Points after Oulton Park (round 4 of 10):
1. Matt Neal, 103pts
2. Gordon Shedden, 101
3. Mat Jackson, 96
4. James Nash, 95
5. Jason Plato, 91
6. Andrew Jordan, 88
7. Tom Chilton, 53
8. Alex MacDowall, 44
9. Robert Collard, 33
=10. Paul O’Neill & Tom Boardman, 30
1. Honda/Dynamics, 243
2. Chevrolet/RML, 216
3. Arena/Ford, 164
HiQ Teams’ Points:
1. Honda Racing Team, 186
2. Silverline Chevrolet, 128
3. 888 Racing with Collins Contractors, 105
4. Pirtek Racing, 99
5. Airwaves Racing, 94
6. Team Aon, 60
Independent Drivers’ Points:
1. James Nash, 125
2. Mat Jackson, 120
3. Andrew Jordan, 115
4. Tom Chilton, 78
5. Robert Collard & Paul O’Neill, 56
Independent Teams’ Points:
1. 888 Racing with Collins Contractors, 129
2. Pirtek Racing & Airwaves Racing, 124
4. Team Aon, 94
5. WSR, 79
6. GoMobileUK.com with tech-speed, 68
*All points remain provisional